by Bernie Beaudreau
Volunteers are vital for the success of our work. Without them, we could not reach even a fraction of the people in need that we currently serve. Volunteers help us in many ways, from office work to food sorting and distribution and in education and advocacy. Each role is necessary for us to fulfill our mission.
In recent weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know Mike Sopchak, who accompanies our mobile food pantry driver Jose. Mike has volunteered every Wednesday for the past six years, riding
with the mobile pantry truck and assisting with each distribution. I’ve seen how well Mike works with other volunteers at the distribution sites. He assists them in setting up the tables and he keeps them supplied from the truck. He is always kind and friendly to all the customers, concerned for their comfort and safety as they wait in line for an hour or more in all kinds of weather.
Mike is among the more than 4,000 volunteers who give of their time and talent to support the Connecticut Food Bank. Simply put, our volunteers are the life-blood of our organization and our network of food pantries throughout our six-county service area.
The impact of volunteers is huge. Over the last five years, our volunteers have given 103,832 hours – valued at $2.8 million — sorting food, data processing, fundraising, assisting with food distributions, organizing hunger education workshops and assisting with daily operations in our warehouse. This year we also had 177 corporate partner groups assisting in food sortation and Kids Backpacks assembly.
There are more than 835,000 volunteers in Connecticut, accounting for more than 28 percent of all youth and adult residents, according to Volunteering and Civic Life in America, the annual report on volunteering by the Corporation for National and Community Service. The hours given by Connecticut volunteers are worth $2.2 billion dollars annually. Nearly 25 percent of those volunteers are involved in some way providing food assistance – collecting, preparing, distributing or serving food in food banks, food pantries and meal sites throughout the state. What an incredible resource!
Let’s make 2017 a year where thousands more volunteers are recruited and mobilized to join us in the fight to end hunger in Connecticut. We all have some time to give and there are thousands of opportunities to connect with others who are helping to deliver nutritious food to our neighbors in need. We will need volunteers at the Connecticut Food Bank, in many of our 300 emergency food member agencies and directly in the community — rescuing food and reaching out to our community partners and customers to create a greater public policy voice for the people we serve.
To learn more about opportunities for volunteering, click here. We need many helping hands to end hunger in Connecticut.